Fleas Chickens Elephants
Chapter 5 of Breaking the Mould
Book Published by Kingsway Edited by Gerald Coates first published 1993
Having a Vision-Making It Happen
By Adrian Hawkes
My Profile in 1993: Written by the Editor of the book. (i.e. Not Me)
Adrian Hawkes leads a network of churches and ministries entitled ‘New Living Ministries’ which is a part of the Pioneer work. The main church is based in the famous rock theatre, The Rainbow, on Seven Sisters Road in North London. They are involved in a number of church-planting initiatives in North London and have inroads into the Tamil community and are church planting with them in France, Switzerland and New Zealand. Adrian is married to Pauline and they have three children.
Chapter Five – of Breaking the Mould- Having a Vision—Making It Happen
If you take a jam-jar and fill it with fleas (the jumping kind), placing the lid firmly on for your own protection, you should note that the fleas will jump up and down until they bang their heads on the lid. At that point they will reduce the height of their jump to a point just below the rim. Fleas, apparently, don’t like bumping their heads. I am told that if you later remove the lid, the fleas will continue to stay in the jar because they are conditioned to believe in a lid.
I have not done this experiment myself, but you are welcome to try it. The point is they are conditioned. Most of us are conditioned by what is around us. It encloses us, it limits us, it controls us. If we understood what a big God we have, we would understand that he has taken the limits off and we can jump out
Breaking the vicious circle
People come to look at the work that has been achieved in our church here in North London and often say things like, ‘If only I had . . . then I could. . . It is foolish to look at what is and assume that it has always been, or that everything floated down from heaven, ready made, just for that pastor, team, leader, music director or whatever, to take charge of and enjoy the fruits.
In every situation there is always the vicious circle. It goes something like this. We do not have enough people; if we had the right money we could get the people; we also lack resources. To some extent that is often a correct conclusion, but somewhere those circles must be broken. We have some choices to make, and the key to those choices is vision--not looking at what is, but at what could be. Not looking at who you have with you, but at what they are going to become. Not looking at the money you don’t have, but at knowing how much you need to spend.
It takes vision plus faith to break the circle. You might break it at the financial point; you might break it at the resources point; you might well break it at the point of people whom you do have and know and who are willing to be with you to help.
Most people have what I call tunnel vision: they see what they want to see. They see what they are conditioned to see, what logic tells them they should see. The mind fills in the details. Almost like the fact that the action of the mind prefers to compensate for the blind spot in the eye, filling in the details from past experiences. We need to jump out of that mind-set. We need new thinking lateral thinking. ‘Put on the mind of Christ,’ the Bible says. Dream dreams! Have a vision!
Chickens could tell us a lot. A farmer once told me that, as a child, a hen, firmly push its beak to the ground and then, with a finger, draw a line in the farmyard dirt. The hen would watch from the right eye the line being drawn nearer and nearer to its head. When the finger got to the head, he would run the finger firmly across the chicken’s head so that it really felt it, and then down the other side of the head. He then continued the line along the dirt, which the hen watched with great suspicion with its left eye. The hen could see a line with the right eye and a line with the left eye, and it surely felt it go across its head. Then he would gently release his hold on the chicken which would stay right there, tied to the floor. It could see the rope with both eyes. The chicken had felt the rope over its head; it knew it was tied down.
Some of us can see what we see, but we see it only with our human eyes. We fail to see with vision that is clear. We can only see the reason why we have not succeeded, the reason why we have been tied down, the reason why we did not get the breaks.
You are not too old. It is not too late to have a dream, to have a vision and to plan the first steps. You will then discover that the things that tied you down were actually illusions, and were only there to limit you in what you need to do for the kingdom.
They tell me that the way to train an elephant is very simple. Again, I have not tried it, but will be glad to receive the results of your research. I am told that you find a sturdy tree stump and tie the elephant’s leg to it with a strong chain. You then put food for the elephant just out of reach so that as he moves towards it the chain cuts harder into his leg, creating considerable pain. After a few days, the elephant learns that to try and reach the food simply causes tremendous pain and is unachievable. You can then feed the elephant. You can change the chain for a light rope that normally the elephant would snap, but the light rope will now be sufficient to restrain your elephant.
The elephant has been conditioned to believe that moving his leg, if it is tied, would cause him pain. So he has learned to move only in the area where the slack would allow. Conditioned, controlled and tamed, the mighty elephant is now limited. There is one thing, however, that will spoil the training of an elephant. Should you have completed your training and then be unfortunate enough to suffer a fire (one that comes towards your elephant), the fire would enable the elephant to overcome the conditioning, overcome the pain, overcome the fact that he knows he is tied, and he would break loose. The breaking loose would mean that never again could you train him or condition him. You have lost your elephant!
Changing our thinking
It is very obvious that the way God changes people is by changing their thinking. ‘As a man thinks, so he is,’ says Proverbs 23:7 in effect. ‘Be transformed by the renewing of your mind’ (Rom 12:2). What we think about ourselves, our situation, our upbringing, our God, is all-important. ‘I am unable‘means you will not be able to. ‘I can’ means you will. Paul says, ‘I can do everything through him who gives me strength’ (Phil 4:13), and he could!
The fire changes the elephant and makes him free once again. The fire of the Holy Spirit should burn into our minds and set us free. Maybe some of us speak in tongues, but we somehow need the fire of the Holy Spirit to burn up the old negatives—the disillusionment, conditioning, upbringing, old hurts, laziness, worldliness, wrong conceptions of God—and free us to be visionaries who will take action and change the world. This is how it happened in the Bible. I am not trying out a new doctrine. Danny Moe, a Canadian friend of mine, takes seminars for sales representatives for some very large companies. He told me once that fewer than 1% of all groups (and he does seminars for Secular as well as Christian organisations) have any goals, plan or vision of where they are going or what they plan to be or do. A pastor of a church in North London spoke to me at a Ministers’ Fratemal. When I asked him what his goals and aims were, his answer was, ‘I am just waiting to be led. I do not plan anything. I just want to see what God does.’ That sort of nonsense showed in the life, or non-life, of his church! I am sure that God is still willing to speak with us, guide us and redirect us, but there is a broad-based plan in Scripture that offers scope for us to change the situation. God is with us to do just that.
How do we get started?
How do we change if we are visionless at the moment? Where do you get dreams from?
I believe the first place we ought to go is to the word of God in order to gain understanding of who God is and what he is able to do. Fill your mind with it. Fill your mind with the fact that he is a mighty God, a God of miracles, a God of power, God who is love. Know that he is with you, for you, plans for your success, is just waiting to be involved with your work, and for you to be involved with his plans.
Secondly, start to dream—not necessarily while you are asleep! Dreams without inhibition, unlimited dreams. Do not limit your dreams by what your qualifications are, or what you don’t have, or what you may or may not need, or what resources you lack. Dream as if you have them all.
Thirdly, begin to have a vision of the dreams fulfilled. See it, taste it, walk round it, hear from God, tell him what you see.
Fourthly, set goals—real goals, long-term goals, short-term goals, medium-term goals—and say: ‘My goals take me there. My long-term goal is to arrive.’ The goals must interlink. It is not usually sensible to go south if your ultimate plan is to end up in the north. Write the goals down. Review them regularly. Life is made up of choices and some things have to be rejected in favour of others. Don’t get side-tracked and channelled into the wrong direction from your goal. God is for you, so go for it! Remember that destiny is a matter of choice not circumstance.
Fifthly, and here is where many people get frozen in their tracks (where dreams and visions may die), have a plan of where you are going. You must have bite-size, achievable objectives. To put it another way, the goal must be broken down into small pieces. What will you do tomorrow? These composite part of your vision must have time limits. They must be measurable. You might miss the time or not quite make the measurement, but if it is not stated, then it is not measurable and you will hit nothing and go nowhere. (Unless of course you are like the farmer who hit a bull’s eye every time on his barn door. The only problem was, he painted the targets after he had fired the bullets.)
Sixthly, we need a philosophy of ministry. We need to be reminded at this point that we are kingdom people, children of the heavenly Father. We cannot regard what we do as simply employment, though we may be employed. We cannot see it as just work, though we may have to work very hard.
The best way of describing what we do to accomplish the vision, is ministry. That means you and your vision are not only working something out, you are a gift to the church. Not a cheap copy that will break down after a couple of uses, but a real valuable genuine article. What is ministry? Where do we minister? It seems that many definitions of ministry have a very narrow band—preaching, visiting, studying. There are some who would tag other gifts to the church with that, such as teacher or pastor. From my own perspective, it has been a great tragedy that many denominations see the pastoral role as the main ministry and only pay lip service to the other ministries. We need a philosophy of ministry that is broad based, enabling, involving and one that will allow us to be inclusive of the whole church community.
I have tried to work out a philosophy of ministry as follows:
1. To be an enabler— which usually means getting out of the way to let the church work.
2. To have the broadest possible vision. I would see that as the local church being involved in every angle and aspect of human happening—-worship, praise, evangelism, education, business, medicine. politics and social concern.
3. To have a vision broad enough to allow me to incorporate other people’s vision into my vision making it our vision, and to help them exercise their ministry in the widest possible way.
4. To seek to obey the biblical injunction to pass on to faithful men that which I have learned, that they in turn pass it on (2 Tim 2:2), and to allow that participation across the whole ministry. I do not imagine that I will always be the preacher, teacher or whatever, or that the team around me will always be doing what they are doing. They must be passers-on and developers of others. To seek to have structures that teach the church and then the community at large to bring forth facets of ministry, so that care takes place for the whole church.
5. To seek to be expansionist in every area of church activity. Remember that evil is expansionist and therefore the kingdom needs to be as well.
6. To continually find other people’s ministries and develop them. I do not mean that you must adopt my philosophy of ministry, but you do need one. Many do not have one. They are going through the motions of a tradition, or they have a job, or they have never taken the trouble to define what they are about. Think it through, define it and go for it! If you are not planning to hit something, then most likely you won’t! This may put some off because of the ‘hard work’ factor.
We had quite a substantial work in North London and God blessed us in many ways. We spent considerable time showing people around the numerous facilities. Most of the people we showed around were church leaders of various ilk. The reaction concerning what God had done usually came in three forms:
(a) Those who regarded me, or the team, or both, as something unique, specially used of God, a one-off. This is not a compliment because we are very ordinary people. Usually visitors said, ‘If I had your . . . and named some aspect of our church’s talents, ministry or plant as if it had fallen down from heaven. It did not. It took battles, disappointments, despondency, misunderstandings, stickability, faith in God and sheer hard work.
(b) (b) The second group, who perhaps were a little more honest, looked around and said, ‘Oh, it’s great, but it looks like hard work to me. I would not want to cope with so much.’ Sadly, that group seemed to be the largest.
(c) The third group, and by far the smallest, looked and said, ‘I can see what God has done for you. He can do similar things in my church town/area. I am going to become the catalyst for change in my sphere of influence.’
I believe in models. I believe in setting trends, in challenging what is. It is only as some do, in God, what has not been done before that others will follow. I don’t think it is wrong to want some of the good things God has done for others. They are my chance to know him more, to enter into a deeper relationship and to experience his working. I noticed that Jesus called busy people in the New Testament to follow him. He did not call those who were sitting around doing nothing. I think work can be great fun, especially when it is kingdom work.
8. I do believe leadership must set goals so that visions do not become a one-man show, or just personal vision. Their vision must be something the whole church can see and go for. I often go into other churches and I am told what the vision of the church is. Sadly many times there isn’t one. Worse still, people often say to me, ‘Tell our pastor what is going on in your fellowship so some of it can go on here.’ It is not as simple as that. Many pastors don’t want to hear or know! It is possible to have a people-led revolution, but it is usually bloody, hurtful and often does not succeed. Much better if a leadership has vision, translates it into goals and persuades others to own those goals.
Some years ago I came back from a Pastors’ School with what I believe was a vision from God, or word from the Lord—a goal. It was to become a church that is an effective visible voice for him in our area of North East London, with at least 3,000 people coming together for celebrations. We have not arrived there yet, but if you had asked people in our fellowship, one year later, ‘What is the goal of the church? 10% would have said, ‘A congregation of 3,000,’ If you ask that question now, 90% would give you the same answer.
9. You have to start somewhere and the best thing to start with is what you have got. Too many people claim they are going to do ‘so and so’ when God sends the person with ‘such and such’ a gift or talent to the church. They will do it when finances are right, or, worse still, when the church is right.
God gives the increase
We need to learn from the two little ones who were late for school. One said, ‘Let’s stop and pray that the bus will be late.’ The other one said, ‘No, let‘s run and pray.’ It seems to me that God wants to do a great deal with the little we do have. We need to see and be willing to use the little we have if we want God to move for us. God’s miracles always seem to have a human element in the Bible. Here are three examples to demonstrate what I mean.
(a) ‘What have you got?’ asked the starving Elijah of the starving widow. ‘Nothing,’ was the first reply. The second reply was, ‘Except some oil and meal.’ ‘Bake it and give it to God,’ was the answer. God gives the increase (see 1 Kings 17:7-16).
(b) ‘What have you got?’ the man of God asked of the widow who says her children will be sold into slavery. ‘Nothing,’ was the first reply. The second reply was ‘Except a little oil.’ ‘Go and collect vessels and use your oil,’ said Elisha. God gives the increase (see 2 Kings 4:1-7).
(c) ‘Feed the people,’ Jesus commanded the disciples. ‘How?’ they asked. ‘What have you got?’ asked Jesus. ‘Nothing,’ was the first reply. ‘Five loaves and two fishes,’ was the second reply. God gives the increase (see Matthew 14:1S—21).
I ask many leaders, ‘What have you got?’ The reply is often that they have nothing. Because my eyes are adjusted to seeing, I go to their churches and see talents of music, witnessing, service and caring, and I long to have them say to God, ‘I have these and I “give them to you. I will use them. I will start.’ Then they will see God give the increase.
Having started— continue. So often we want to give up because it is hard, it is not what we expected, we were misunderstood, it is a pressure, those we trusted have left. But in the end is not just yet. The story is not finished, the climb is not over. Stay with it. Don’t cancel, don’t close, don’t sell. Invest instead. Don’t call it a day, don’t give up. Stay in there and God will give you the increase. Sow liberally and reap the harvest. There are lots of great starters, a few good continuers, even fewer finishers. Be one of the few finishers. Finish what God has called you to do.
10. When you start to go forward, you will need an essential ingredient—real friends. Friends who will support you. Friends who will understand you when you are hard to understand. Friends who are real enough to tell you when you are wrong. Friends who will be with you when nothing particular is happening. Friends who will stand with you when it seems the sky has caved in. It will take time to earn such friends. They will need cultivating. Enjoy meals together, work together, play together. They will help you and you will help them become all that you both need to be in the body of Christ.
11. The eleventh thing we need on our way forward is a lack of neatness. Yes, I did say ‘lack’. People who have everything sewn up have usually stopped church. Those who have everything in neat tidy committees are not going anywhere. People who want every ‘i’ dotted and every ‘t’ crossed before they start out will probably never leave home. Our Western minds like the tidy approach, everything in its place. We think structures, and of course we need structures to make us function, but they don’t always have to be as tidy as we think!
One pastor visiting my church one day said, ‘It is so untidy, more like a circus.’
‘I like circuses,’ was my reply.
‘What is your leadership structure?’ some say to me. I know what it is at the moment, but it is also like a kaleidoscope, continually changing. The holder is stable but that is all. We change things around to meet the changing needs and doors of opportunity. I am very suspicious of neat answers, neat churches. Long live the ragged edge! Long live anomalies! Long live exceptions!
12. It is dangerous to become too introspective. When I was a little boy my mother allowed me to plant some seeds in the garden. Every day I went along and dug them up to see how they were doing. They didn’t do very well! We must not do that with ourselves, nor with that part of the work that God has entrusted to us, but we do need to look back.
We need to look back to what we were before God saved us.
We need to look back at what has been done. We need to remember that rough diamond and observe some of the polish now beginning to show. We need to remind ourselves that a life once wasted is now bringing forth fruit. We can go forward. We can conquer. We can be more than conquerors—never mind the toil, never mind the hard work, God is worth it! When you do look back and see those things, it will make you want to rejoice. I believe that God wants us to rejoice in him. Be glad in the Lord, even if there is nothing else to be glad in. But there is, for we can be glad in what we have accomplished.
Breaking the Mould Book
Published by Kingsway Publications
Editor Gerald Coates
NB Life is a journey. Life in knowing God and learning His ways is also a journey of developing relationships. Some of what I wrote in 1993 are still principals that I would find useful and would want to encourage. In terms of the way I would now use the word ‘church’ and other areas like Kingdom and what that means then I would have to say that my relationship with God has developed me and changed my thinking; If you want to know how and more you would need to ask me. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org